A medieval churchyard in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, a waterworks tower that inspired Tolkien and Victorian swimming baths in the city are among a number of heritage sites at risk of being lost in the West Midlands.
The buildings are among more than 500 structures assessed by English Heritage as in need of urgent repairs to prevent them crumbling away.
The historic sites are among 6,000 nationally on the organisation’s Heritage at Risk register meaning they are in danger of disappearing from the landscape forever if action is not taken.
The list also includes for the first time heritage monuments - described as “humps and bumps”- which include ancient walls, shipwrecks, parkland, Bronze Age burial mounds and nuclear bunkers.
Of the region’s 1,444 monuments, 29 per cent - or 419 - are in danger of destruction, compared with the national proportion of 21 per cent.
The region also has a higher proportion of listed buildings at risk - 172 in total, or 4.9 per cent, compared with 3.2 per cent nationally.
And the proportion of parks and gardens in the West Midlands is double the national figure - 13 per cent compared with seven per cent.
Tim Johnston, English Heritage regional director for planning and development, said: “It is a bit worrying. It may be because of the industrial legacy of the West Midlands.
“Some of these are industrial buildings that are crumbling. The other point is because of civic pride in Victorian times there were a lot of buildings built for the community that is now in danger if not looked after.”
Mr Johnston said there was a north-south divide with more sites in danger in the north because there was more private investment in the south to spend on converting historic buildings into new usage.
Heritage at Risk was launched at Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter - one of the monuments in danger of crumbling away in the West Midlands.
Mr Johnston: “The walls that are propping up the cemetery are being supported. Some of the headstones have fallen down. The railings have gone.
“But it is an asset for the Jewellery Quarter. It is the oldest cemetery in Birmingham. Joseph Chamberlain was buried there. It is part of
Birmingham’s history. It needs to be preserved for future generations.” Grade II-listed Perrott’s Folly in Edgbaston is another site on the Heritage at Risk register. Built in 1758, the six-storey structure in Edgbaston is said to have inspired Tolkien’s two towers in Lord of the Rings.
Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, which is at the centre of fund-raising drives to reopen its main swimming pool, is also on the list along with the Grand Hotel in Colmore Row and Curzon Street Station.
A battlefield features among monuments at risk of being lost being highlighted by English Heritage. The site in Wychavon, Worcester, is where the Battle of Worcester with Powick Bridge took place in 1651.
It saw 30,000 Parliamentarian soldiers defeated 12,000 royalists. According to English Heritage, it is currently under pressure from modern housing.
Mr Johnston said: “It is all about protecting our heritage for future generations. Once the historic environment is lost it is lost for ever.
“We are trying to preserve the best of the past for the future. Some of the things on the list may ultimately be lost if there aren’t the financial resources.
“But a lot of them we do want to keep. They add to the character and distinctiveness of an area. The country is at risk of looking the same.
“What makes a place distinctive is design and heritage. If we lose that it will become very much a same kind of place.”
Nationally, one in 12 out of 70,000 heritage sites in England are deemed to be at high risk by English Heritage. These include a fifth of monuments, registered battlefields and protected wrecks.
About one in every 14 parks, gardens and landscapes nationally is also deemed to be threatened.